Well, THAT’s a headline that wrote itself (at about 4 o’clock this morning). Virgin Atlantic are claiming victory in the rush to push through the first ever restructuring plan launched under our glittering new Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act. There are some big names involved, too, Allen & Overy and Houlihan Lokey are guiding Virgin through the deal we first talked about more than two weeks ago on the NTI news bulletin (a little early for the trumpet section, boys. Oh, hang on, that was us, blowing our own). How about this for a trade? Make a choice; your house, your pension and all of your savings, or the fees on THAT deal? No competition, eh?
Just two days before his 70th birthday Richard Branson (always described in an entirely fair press as ‘the billionaire Virgin boss’) is down to his last Caribbean island. He apparently offered to mortgage his holiday island, Necker, in return for new investment, but thankfully this wasn’t necessary when US hedge fund Davidson Kempner Capital Management stumped up £170m, the rest of the war chest being made up of deferring or waiving existing liabilities.
007 Sunak had previously refused to advance any state aid to Virgin in the UK and, it is reported, all other private-sector options had been exhausted. Billy reckons this is because Rishi is a gold card member at British Airways and didn’t want to wreck his chances of an upgrade when he next flies to Barbados to get his beach body readied for the next Bond movie, ‘You Appear To Be Naked, Madam’ shooting in the summer of 2024.
This isn’t brilliant news for the 3,500 Virgin Atlantic staff who already found themselves in Job Centres from last month and is still rubbish for VINCI Airports and Global Infrastructure Partners who run London Gatwick, where they now have a load of slots previously occupied from the now departed airline, as well as about 150 from BA who have made a similar decision. They must be somewhat relieved they weren’t on EasyJet’s initial airport hitlist, but cannot rest easy yet.
The deal Virgin have done is enough to keep the airline flying/parked up at Heathrow, but by all accounts there is not a lot of wiggle-room, so if billionaire Virgin boss Richard Branson is planning a big birthday bash on Necker on Saturday he may have to buy his own vol-au-vents.